Do You Really Need More Than 6 GB Of RAM?

The notion that bigger is better has taken a beating lately in all aspects of society.

Once the pride of the so-called upper middle class in the United States, McMansions and SUVs have now become symbols of excess and waste--at least the reminders of an era past. Green movement proponents should certainly be happy that so many “earth abusers” are beginning to see the light, but what about performance-computing fanatics? With memory prices near record lows, is there any good reason not to fill every slot with low-cost 2 GB DIMMs?

Environmentalists could point out that IC and PCB production turns a large quantity of natural resources into post-production waste, while most of the end-product is not recyclable and the additional components add to the system’s energy consumption. Power users could easily counter energy concerns by pointing out that a better-performing computer allows them to get their work done in less time. But neither argument is sufficient to answer the question we’ve asked so many times before: How much RAM do you really need?

Our 2004 article pointed out weaknesses in the once-popular single-gigabyte configurations. But 512 MB and smaller modules are now a distant memory. It wasnt long after that 2 GB became the performance standard, and by 2007, 4 GB kits could be found in all but the lowest-cost systems. Is it time to take the next step, to 8 GB or more? More importantly, were 4 GB modules ever really needed for games and everyday applications? And with the 32-bit addressing limit of 4 GB making only 3 GB available to many users, should everyone switch to a 64-bit operating system simply to support higher capacities?

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  • EQPlayer
    I run 8GB in my rig because... having open memory slots doesn't jive well with my OCD. Haha. /facepalm
    36
  • Anonymous
    Try opening a PSD file from a 21-Megapixel camera with 3 or more layers in Photoshop and see the difference.
    31
  • Commlock
    The conclusion says: "We can only recommend larger capacities of 8 GB to 12 GB for professional applications where its usefulness has already been documented and for servers."

    Therefore it is meaningless to mention about the memory requirement for 3 Adobe programs at the same time. Just read the article carefully.
    14
  • Other Comments
  • EQPlayer
    I run 8GB in my rig because... having open memory slots doesn't jive well with my OCD. Haha. /facepalm
    36
  • Anonymous
    Try opening a PSD file from a 21-Megapixel camera with 3 or more layers in Photoshop and see the difference.
    31
  • Anonymous
    Great info for the Vista crowd. What about DDR2 and XP? Betcha there are more of us than youse guys.
    -1
  • whitewhale1
    can someone help me with what apps will utilise more ram?

    im currently researching building a workstation for photoshop and some 3d modelling to be imported and rendered in CS4

    any help much appreciated im no hardware guru :)
    1
  • Crashman
    Quote:
    Great info for the Vista crowd. What about DDR2 and XP? Betcha there are more of us than youse guys.


    It's generally accepted that XP uses less RAM than Vista, so you should be fine with 4GB (which, with 32-bit XP, will yield around 3GB of usefull address space).
    4
  • shades_aus
    @Thomas Soderstrom
    What the heck is that image on the front with all the memory modules!
    Can you supply a link with a bigger pic??? That's just insane!
    0
  • curiousgeorgieo
    Hey guys I was wondering: What if you had a 9g game loaded completely on a ramdrive (64bit+software) then kept the remaining 3 for regular ram?
    3
  • Tindytim
    I got 12 for all your application pleasure baby *wink*
    -7
  • Crashman
    shades_aus@Thomas Soderstrom What the heck is that image on the front with all the memory modules!Can you supply a link with a bigger pic??? That's just insane!


    It looks like a memory testing machine or burn-in rack to me...I'm not sure where the site found it.

    curiousgeorgieoHey guys I was wondering: What if you had a 9g game loaded completely on a ramdrive (64bit+software) then kept the remaining 3 for regular ram?


    That's a great idea! Because it takes sooo long to copy an entire game from the hard drive to "anything" (even RAM), most users won't even try it. But you would get super-fast map loads!
    0
  • Anonymous
    Try using several VMs in parallel and you'll be happy to have more than 3 GB. I'm using one VM for work (image of my work notebook with VPN etc.) and one for online banking (mainly because my old smartcard isn't supported in 64bit OS, little bit of a catch22).
    9
  • knowom
    CrashmanBecause it takes sooo long to copy an entire game from the hard drive to "anything" (even RAM), most users won't even try it. But you would get super-fast map loads!


    I have 8GB and use 4GB to load a MMORPG game on and the other 4 to use for system ram. It's great to cut down random disk access and helps improve load times. Like you mentioned though the downside is it takes awhile to copy your game data or whatever into the ram drive. My ramdrive is setup to copy the data automatically on startup, but startup time takes a modest amount longer due to that.
    3
  • kureshii
    What about setting up RAMdisks (as a temp folder, working directory, swap partition, etc)... surely doing this with 6-12GB of RAM would make a big difference?
    3
  • gsnyder
    This article illustrates the dark side of Tom's Hardware: making a big deal about quantifying performance differences that are of no practical impact. In this case, even the concept for the article is idiotic. Why would you even THINK to look for differences in application performance beyond the threshold of adequate memory? There's a bit of value in the last couple of pages, but beyond that you've wasted your time and ours.

    I'm not saying this just for the entertainment value of trolling. I want you to know that publishing crap like this discredits the Tom's Hardware brand. How many articles like this will people read before writing off Tom's Hardware completely as a source of information?
    -28
  • Anonymous
    I've got 12GB of OCZ's DDR3-1600 overclocked to 1780 in my system. With triple channel 6GB kits at under $100, there's no reason not to populate all the 6 (or 4) DIMMs on a motherboard.
    -3
  • Anonymous
    Also, if you've ever a virtual OS the windfall of having over 3Gb is huge.
    4
  • ohim
    Having more memory is about system response to load times and clealy multitasking, try to open Premiere , Photoshop and After Effects at the same time and do your work and you will see a huge impact into system response not just stupid 1 task gameing. Just 2 examples:

    http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/1300/30630315.jpg

    http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/1691/40873236.jpg

    I guess this would run just fine on 3 GB too ?
    1
  • lcrakel
    After reading this I wish I would have never bought that second kit of memory. Nothing but a waste of money.
    0
  • Commlock
    The conclusion says: "We can only recommend larger capacities of 8 GB to 12 GB for professional applications where its usefulness has already been documented and for servers."

    Therefore it is meaningless to mention about the memory requirement for 3 Adobe programs at the same time. Just read the article carefully.
    14
  • Commlock
    ohimHaving more memory is about system response to load times and clealy multitasking, try to open Premiere , Photoshop and After Effects at the same time and do your work and you will see a huge impact into system response not just stupid 1 task gameing. Just 2 examples:http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/1300/30630315.jpghttp://img5.imageshack.us/img5/1691/40873236.jpgI guess this would run just fine on 3 GB too ?


    Just read the end of the article carefully.
    "We can only recommend larger capacities of 8 GB to 12 GB for professional applications where its usefulness has already been documented and for servers"
    -1
  • sonofliberty08
    just because the x86 are old cow architecture , we should just dumb it and switch to x64 . :)
    3